It was 721 days ago that the Giants trailed in the ninth inning of a game they eventually won. I remember it as if it were 720 days ago. The other team’s closer came into the game on May 10, 2015, and the Giants won anyway. What a world.
You’d better believe I’m not letting this go. This is my brand now.
In the first month of the 2017 season, the Giants have lost two games they were leading when the ninth inning started. Either you believe this team is storing all of these ninth-inning karma credits to exchange at a later date, or you don’t believe that time is linear, and the Giants already spent their credits. I think I’m in the latter camp, and that’s fine. It’s just not a lot of fun while it’s happening.
The focus will be on Mark Melancon, which is slightly unfair. The first baserunner he allowed came on an error from Eduardo Nuñez, who had also made two brilliant plays earlier in the game. Melancon messed up on a pitch to Hector Sanchez, but, really how many pitchers have messed up on a pitch to Hector Sanchez without getting punished? Most of them. That’s my guess.
The Giants were a ground ball away from winning, but they lost because Sanchez hit a ball out of AT&T Park. If it seems odd to you, that’s because it should.
Sanchez had 297 plate appearances in AT&T Park when he was with the Giants. He hit two home runs. This makes sense. It’s a tough place to hit.
Sanchez has had eight plate appearances in AT&T Park while with the Padres. He’s hit two home runs. This makes no sense. It’s a tough place to hit.
The absurdity of Sanchez’s production at AT&T Park now compared to his years with the Giants is sublime. The Giants have come back from eight different ninth-inning deficits since the last time Sanchez hit this home run:
The Giants have allowed other teams to come back from ninth-inning deficits 20 times since that home run.
And, again, none since May, 2015. Feels like I haven’t pointed that out yet.
I don’t want to suggest that the Giants aren’t clutch, or that they lack some sort of magic ninth-inning skill that other teams have. It’s partially bad timing, partially bad luck, partially bad baseball. If you take any information home from this, let it be a simple theory: The 2017 Giants are roughly as good as the 2017 Padres.
In a 162-game simulation between the Giants and the Padres, which is something that would kill us all, the Padres will occasionally take a three-game series at AT&T Park. The Giants have lost two series against them this year, which is one of the permutations that you might expect when two equally matched teams face off. Sometimes the Giants win, sometimes the don’t.
That’s because they’re probably as good as the Padres. Who were supposed to finish in last place and still might. Maybe. I’m not optimistic.
The Padres, see, can hit home runs. Big, long home runs that go “over the fence.” They scored five runs in Sunday’s game, and they all came on home runs. The Giants are 3-2 when they hit two home runs, which says something, considering they’ve played 26 games. They just don’t hit a lot of home runs.
But what does this game suggest the answer is? Is there a magic bullet to help the Giants a) come back in the ninth inning and b) hit more dingers? This game suggests the answer is Hector Sanchez, which is an answer that makes you call the regional office to send another technician out because it’s clearly not right. That was the right answer for the Padres today. It’s not the right answer for any team in the future.
More power is the answer in a general sense, though. Get runs in a way that doesn’t require five straight singles. Don’t rely on the double-and-single offense. Take a closer’s screwed-up location for one lousy pitch, and turn it into an unexpected win. The Giants don’t have that right now, and the Padres do. It’s the coin of the current realm, and the Giants are way behind. It’s why they lost the game in the 12th inning, even though one lousy run could have won the game in the 9th, 10th, and 11th innings.
The Giants are a singles-hitting team in a homer-hitting world. And it’s killing them. There are two other Giants teams that have started this poorly over 26 games: the 1900 team and the 1980 team. Think of all the disappointing seasons you’ve watched over the last few decades. You probably haven’t watched a start as bad as this. And if you watched that 1980 team: You’ve watched a start as bad as this, and it didn’t turn out well.
I will say that I look forward to Ty Blach starts now. His command and control are delightful, and he’s perfect against a team like the Padres, who are young and aggressive. I would pay $60 for the opportunity to write a “Cain or Blach?” piece in August, when Madison Bumgarner should be back. That would be nothing but good news for the Giants, and I look forward to it.
Until then, I must admit that I do not look forward to Giants games. They are not good. They are, in fact, very bad. Mark Melancon was the move of the offseason, and he apparently wasn’t a magic bag of blown- save repellant. He’s still good, but he’s a better fit for a team that can take leads with some frequency.
The Giants might not be that team. They might be about as good as the Padres. According to the last two series, they might be a little worse than the Padres.
They’re in last place again, you know.